Unlimited and Unlimited – what’s the difference?

Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited, explains the differences between Unlimited (the commissions programme) and Unlimited (Southbank Centre’s festival).

It’s not a trick question, honest.

There really are two Unlimited’s – the commissions programme and the festival and they’re not the same thing although there are significant overlaps.

Unlimited is the world’s largest commissions programme for disabled artists, working not just to create new work but to get it seen, discussed and embedded within the cultural fabric of the UK. We are the £2 million, three-year programme delivered by the disability-led arts charity, Shape, and arts producing organisation, Artsadmin, and funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Creative Scotland with key partners including British Council, Southbank Centre, DaDaFest and DAO. I’m the senior producer for this Unlimited and we are currently operating from 2013-2016 and have two funding rounds – one of which has past and a second which opens up this autumn (November 2014) so watch this space.

Our role is to commission the artists and to support them to develop their work and get it shown as widely as possible – throughout the UK and through our partners the British Council, throughout the world too.

We also run Unlimited Impact, supported by the Spirit of 2012 Trust – a new extension of Unlimited. Unlimited Impact will focus on developing and inspiring the next generation of young disabled people passionate about making change through the arts; extending Unlimited’s reach by supporting venues across the country to successfully programme ambitious and high quality work by disabled artists; and deepening discussion and debate around work by disabled artists.

So what’s the other Unlimited? That’s Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival which showcases the work of many of our Unlimited artists at Southbank Centre, alongside other disabled artists from both the UK and around the world. Southbank Centre are famous for running fabulous festivals – and Unlimited is no exception. Curated by Wendy Martin, Unlimited provides a rich feast of work crossing all arts disciplines and will make for an exciting and unmissable showcase from 2nd – 7th September 2014. You can access the full programme and book tickets here.

Of course there are many, many overlaps. Much of the work in the festival comes directly from Unlimited commissioned artists – either those who have gained support for full pieces or for research and development (don’t miss the chance to Be There At the Start, for instance, a free event to catch some of our R&D artists talking about the works they are developing). We’ve also put together an exhibition on the history of Unlimited, and a video programme of works to support this year’s festival. Through Unlimited Impact we’re creating the ‘Your Slogan Here’ T-Shirt exhibition, training young disabled people in social media skills and showcasing the work of ReMix Gold, Diverse City’s Youth Company who are creating a new piece of aerial work especially for the festival. Both myself and Tony Heaton, Chief Executive of Shape are chairing discussions as part of the Unlimited Voices series of talks and hosting some of the Question and Answer sessions after key events.

The festival will be fantastic – and we can’t wait – but for us at Unlimited here, the work doesn’t stop come the 7th September. Southbank Centre is just one of the places where work is being showcased. Watch this space to find out more about Unlimited works at Fierce Festival, at DadaFest, at Luminate Festival of Creative Ageing and more… As we’ve said before, we are Unlimited…